Photos by Darin Schnabel, courtesy RM Auctions
Some of the world's most unusual – and smallest – pickups will get new owners when The Bruce Weiner Microcar Museum auctions its collection today and tomorrow in Madison, Ga.
How small are they? Well, most of them are small enough to fit into the bed of a modern half-ton truck.
"They're definitely a small segment," said Alain Squindo, an automotive specialist for RM Auctions, the company handling the auction.
Microcars were popular in postwar Europe, where the tiny vehicles designed to hold from two to four people helped get countries back on their self-propelled wheels after the devastation of World War II.
"They were mainly commuter cars," Squindo said, "but there also were some trucks made for very light duty."
Microcars and delivery vehicles – some had three wheels, some four – are powered by motorcycle engines and also were popular in Japan.
A few microcars were imported to the U.S., where the best-known is the BMW Isetta, one of which was featured in the 1989-98 television series "Family Matters" and was driven by the Steve "Did I do that?" Urkel character.
The Isettas from the 1950s and early '60s had wheelbases of less than 60 inches, were about 90 inches long overall, 48 inches wide (about the dimensions of a modern Polaris all-terrain vehicle) and rode on 10-inch wheels. Single- or twin-cylinder engines could propel them up to 65 mph.
Bruce Weiner, for whom the museum is named, is a longtime collector of various items, including automobiles. When he became fascinated with microcars some 20 years ago, he found a reference book and used it as a field guide to create his collection.
Squindo said that Weiner has traveled around the world searching – even digging out snowed-in barns and tearing down a brick wall – to find a microcar that someone hid away. He ended up with what many consider to be the world's best collection, which he is selling to fulfill another of his collecting pursuits.
Because the vehicles are so unusual, the auction is drawing unusual interest, not only from microcar collectors but from those who usually collect only exotic vehicles and realize this is a one-time opportunity to obtain some of the last best examples of a breed, Squindo said.
The auction will include more than 200 microcars – among them nearly a dozen pickups – as well as microcar memorabilia.
For more information, visit the RM Auction by clicking here. You can also check out this video below:
1961 BMW Isetta 300 Pickup
Italian motorcycle manufacturer Iso launched the postwar "bubble car" in 1951. In 1955, Iso sold rights to the Isetta to BMW, which switched the Isetta's engine from an Italian motorcycle engine to the 245-cubic-centimeter single-cylinder power plant it used on its R27 bikes. Later, a 298-cc version of the BMW engine was used.
In addition to a factory in Germany, BMW built the Isetta in England, which is where this factory-built prototype pickup version was developed and provided the basis for a small production run used by the Royal Air Force on its bases. The pickup bed, which was mounted above the four-stroke engine, could carry as much as 165 pounds of gear or ordinance.
RM estimates this prototype will sell for $35,000 to $45,000 at auction.
1959 Goggomobil TL-400 Transporter Pickup
This 1959 Goggomobil TL-400 Transporter Pickup was part of a series of microcars produced in southern Germany by Glas, which began making farm equipment in the 19th century and the Goggo motor scooter in 1951. Goggomobil microcars began in 1955 with German production later supported by a facility in Spain.
The largest customer for the Transporter Pickup was the German postal service, though the trucks also were used by towns and tradesmen as service and delivery vehicles.
This example, done in a Coca-Cola livery paint job, employs the largest 20-horsepower, 398-cc vertical twin two-stroke engine.
Expectations are that this TL-400 will fetch between $100,000 and $120,000 at auction.
1958 Eshelman Sportabout Coupe
Cheston Eshelman of Baltimore got into the microcar business in 1953, producing fiberglass-bodied versions for adults and children. This unrestored Sportsabout Coupe can carry three people. Eshelman also produced coupe and van versions.
Its power – 18 hp – comes from a 67.3-cubic-inch-displacement Wisconsin THD vertical twin engine.
RM estimates a sales price at auction of $3,000 to $5,000.
1957 Iso Isettacarro
Renzo Rivolta had been manufacturing refrigerators under his Isothermo brand but switched to motor scooters and then to microcars with the Isetta, or "little Iso."
A pickup version was introduced as the Isettacarro and was so popular the company sold as many of small-delivery vehicles as passenger cars.
This Isettacarro was built in Spain. It's 11.5 feet long and has a 9.5-hp, 236-cc twin-piston two-stroke engine.
The museum obtained this pickup from the family of the original owner. It is expected to sell for $45,000 to $55,000 at auction.
1952 Mochet CM-125 Commerciale
Mochet was a French company that began making cars in 1924. Some were powered by motorcycle engines, others by pedals turned by the feet of the driver and passenger. At the end of World War II, Mochet resumed production, at first with vehicles that had bicycle wheels propelled by small engines but supplemented with foot pedals.
In 1952, Mochet introduced two new models, including the CM-125 Commerciale (commercial vehicle) with a 3.5-liter, 125-cc single-cylinder two-stroke Zurcher engine. The Commerciale could carry two people and 330 pounds of cargo in its canvas-covered bed.
This one is expected to sell for $30,000 to $40,000 at auction.
1958 New Map Solyto
New Map of Lyon, France, produced small roadsters powered by motorcycle engines before World War II. Production resumed after the war, but in 1952 the company introduced a small truck.
The engine was kick-started but the truck had a steering wheel instead of handlebars.
The Solyto, powered by a 4.5-hp, 125-cc Ydral one-cylinder two-stroke engine, was popular with farmers.
This example is expected to bring $15,000 to $20,000 at auction.
1960 Mazda K360
Europe wasn't the only microcar habitat. They also were popular in Japan, where the Daihatsu Midget, Mitsubishi Pet and Giant, and three-wheeled Kurogane cars were joined in 1960 by the Mazda K360.
The Mazda version featured independent dual mechanical and hydraulic brake systems, a "self-starting" motor (the 11-hp, 356-cc, two-cylinder engine was located just behind the seats), safety glass windshield and a steering wheel instead of the typical handlebars, as well as a roomy cabin for two and sliding windows.
RM anticipates this example being bid at $15,000 to $20,000.
1970 Subaru 360 Sambar Pickup
Subaru produced microvan and pickup versions of its 360 Sambar (sambar is the name of a deer native to India and domesticated for use carrying packs).
The 360 Sambar had a 25-hp, 356-cc two-cycle two-stroke engine mounted at the rear that powered the rear wheels.
This model, with drop-down bed sides, is expected to sell at auction for $15,000 to $25,000.